Postnatal depression is common. It can happen to any mother after having a baby, but it is more common if a woman has a previous history of depression. About one in eight women suffer from postnatal depression and many women have had some depressive symptoms during pregnancy.
The suffering caused by postnatal depression is profound and frequently underestimated. Sufferers are robbed of many of the joys that are so commonly written about and portrayed by the media. Women who have always been seen as competent and responsible, leading fulfilling lives, unexpectedly find their lives shaken by this condition that can creep in gradually or strike suddenly without warning.
The negative effects of postnatal depression are often made worse by a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Many women are reluctant to admit to feeling down, as they fear they may be judged ‘bad’ or unfit to care for their baby. Many do not know what is wrong with them or that help is available.
Being a new mother means you can’t do everything you did before the birth. You need to take time to recover from the pregnancy and the birth and adjust to being a mother. Take every chance you get to rest and build up reserves of energy. Your maternity leave is there for your benefit and to benefit the relationship between you and your baby. Involve your partner and people you trust to help with the baby and housework.
Try also to:
The signs of postnatal depression are very varied and include:
It can also be a sign of postnatal depression if you are over-involved with the baby and don’t allow anyone else to help. This can lead to exhaustion and make the condition worse. A small group of women feel they cannot do anything right for the baby and will ask their partner or family friend to care for the baby.
Some mothers with postnatal depression will be reluctant to leave the house to meet friends or take ‘time out’. They may use excuses like “what if the baby needed me” or “I’m too tired”.
Other signs of postnatal depression include:
The length of time that mothers need to be on medication varies from six months upwards. Anti-depressants take at least two weeks to begin to work. If you stop taking medication before six months there is a bigger risk of the depression coming back.
Support from family and friends is also crucial to recovering from postnatal depression and therefore should be part of your care plan. Ask for their help and support. Local parenting groups and support groups often help by offering support and understanding. With help all postnatal depression can be over come. You will enjoy life with your new baby and family again.
For further information on postnatal depression, please view the two HSE publications “Chasing the blues away” and “Postnatal Depression- A guide for mothers, family and friends”
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